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O'Brien, J.S.; Troyer, J.L.; Roelke, M.; Maker, L.; Pecon-Slattery, J.
Plagues and adaptation: lessons from the Felidae models for SARS and AIDS
2006  Biological Conservation (131): 255-267

Research studies of infectious disease outbreaks in wild species of the cat family Felidae have revealed unusual details regarding forces that shape population survival and genetic resistance in these species. A highly virulent feline coronavirus epidemic in African cheetahs, a disease model for human SARS, illustrates the critical role of ancestral population genetic variation. Widespread prevalence of species specific feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a relative of HIV-AIDS, occurs with little pathogenesis in felid species, except in domestic cats, suggesting immunological adaptation in species where FIV is endemic. Resolving the interaction of host and pathogen genomes can shed new light on the process of disease outbreak in wildlife and in humankind. The role of disease in endangered populations and species is difficult to access as opportunities to monitor outbreaks in natural populations are limited. Conservation management may benefit greatly from advances in molecular genetic tools developed for human biomedical research to assay the biodiversity of both host species and emerging pathogen. As these examples illustrate, strong parallels exist between disease in human and endangered wildlife and argue for an integration of the research fields of comparative genomics, infectious disease, epidemiology, molecular genetics and population biology for an effective proactive conservation approach.

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